Are Sheridan Smith and David Walliams a Dream combination?
Michael Grandage's hippy-fied West End staging of ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'', starring Sheridan Smith and David Walliams, gets a solid range of 3-5 star reviews
Michael Grandage's production of Shakespeare's perennially popular comedy… is all spliffs and sauciness; an energetic romp in some distinctly dystopian woods… Neither of the stars disappoint, but it's Grandage's injection of pace and vigour into a play that often gets bogged down in pretentious interpretations of its mysticism that proves the evening's trump card… Grandage gets the balance right, making it both genuinely entertaining and emotionally detailed… once we get to the forest… the production soon takes flight to a soaring soundtrack… The lovers are a treat. Katherine Kingsley shows great comic dexterity as Helena… It's not a perfect staging - the drippy songs add little to the evening, ditto movement director Ben Wright's rather derivative dances - but this Midsummer Night's Dream is a shining example of how to make Shakespeare work for a West End audience…
The presence of David Walliams and Sheridan Smith has ensured plenty of advance buzz… both are good value in a fast-moving production… Walliams' rapport with the audience is strong, yet sometimes there's too heavy a whiff of nudge-nudge comedian Frankie Howerd… Around the stars there is slightly uneven work. Katherine Kingsley's Helena and Susannah Fielding's Hermia squabble entertainingly. Gavin Fowler is a lithe Puck… But Pádraic Delaney, who doubles as Theseus and Oberon, doesn't stamp his authority on the roles. Christopher Oram's design is a highlight… while the play's dreamy quality is well realised, there's not much sense of its darkness, and even in its sexier moments there is an air of efficiency rather than passion. This is a spirited and populist account of a perennial favourite, but it lacks magic.
…this is an enormously spirited and fast-moving show… Occasionally I wished Grandage had dug a little deeper… Once it moves to the forest… the production takes off… Smith's delightful Titania carries a large spliff, queens it over her followers with fiery independence and seems up for anything… Walliams has the knack of instinctively connecting with an audience… what is fascinating is how the woodland quarrel between the quartet of lovers becomes, as so often these days, the highlight of the show… Fielding's spitfire Hermia offers a perfect physical and temperamental contrast to Katherine Kingsley's bewildered, blonde Helena. Both are excellent… Grandage's production is sexy, swift and sure-footed, a constant delight to the eye and never lets us forget that this is a play about the magical capacity for change…
…I entered this fourth production in his ambitious season of plays at the Noël Coward with high hopes, only to emerge feeling more than a little disappointed… Much of the problem, here and elsewhere, stems from David Walliams' Bottom… his Bottom is outrageously camp, and we are led to conclude that he and Peter Quince are an item. There is a touch of both Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill to Walliams's performance but there is also something about his smarmy, supercilious demeanour that repels delighted mirth… The lovers are splendidly played… with an especially funny and touching performance from Katherine Kingsley as Helena… it is hard to warm to A Midsummer Night's Dream with a Bottom who gives you the willies.
Sporting a school-of-Janis-Joplin bedraggled mane, Sheridan Smith's excellent Titania is a 60s wild child, evincing a splendidly fiery spirit in her dispute over the page boy with Padraic Delaney's Irish-accented, insufficiently imposing Oberon and in her comic element when besotted by Bottom in donkey mode... David Walliams stays well within the borders of Little Britain, playing the stage-struck weaver as a precious, sibilantly camp am-dram nut... Grandage leaves us guessing about how Smith's Hippolyta, enigmatic in her smart gray suit and fur stole, feels about the death threat levelled by her betrothed at Hermia. There should be a more detailed impression of the tensions in the relationship that need to be resolved... for all the fetching bare flesh and toned torsos on display, there's something curiously antiseptic about these libidinous larks.
Shakespeare's Bottom is usually done as a self-regarding ‘hempen homespun', a Warwickshire mechanical with too much to say for himself. Little Britain star David Walliams, naturally, has a camper take... A liberty with the Bard? Nope. It is a terrific idea: funny, fresh (ooh – fresh indeed) and rather endearing. It certainly makes sense of that name Shakespeare gives him... This is a fine Dream. Mr Walliams co-stars with the constantly, impertinently, humorously sexy Sheridan Smith, whose Titania falls in love with Bottom when he is a donkey... Michael Grandage, London's most reliable director, serves up a Dream which flashes plenty of flesh. The male lovers, Lysander (Sam Swainsbury) and Demetrius (Stefano Braschi) have the looks and limbs of Calvin Klein underpant models. They duly strip to their smalls... This production catches the Sybaritic jollity, the vivid vim of the Dream. Even in autumnal London you catch a taste of midsummer.